Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game

Scott Pilgrim did more than meet the girl of his dreams. He met her IN them. Ramona Flowers, a delivery girl for, is beautiful, mysterious, and changes her hair color weekly. Unfortunately, there are seven major problems standing in the way of their happiness together: her evil exes. These are seven failed suitors who want only to keep Scott from dating her, organized under the greatest ex of all, Gideon Graves. It’s up to Scott to finally find the power of love within himself in order to conquer Ramona’s jilted partners and nab a “good” ending for the both of them.

In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game, an adaptation of the wildly popular comic series and feature film, you’ll take up the mantle of Scott, Ramona, or one of the members of fledgling band Sex Bob-omb on a raucous and thoroughly retro-licious journey to take out all six evil ex-boyfriends and one evil ex-girlfriend.

Like the comics and the movie from where this violent rainbow sugar rush of a side-scrolling beat-em-up came, this release relies on old-school gaming sensibilities and cheeky gaming references to create one of the better and more enjoyable book or movie tie-ins of all time.

Unfortunately, it’s not one of the best video games you’ll get your hands on. While this 8-bit brawler practically oozes style and classic gaming goodness, it doesn’t quite make up for its plentiful problems.

You’ll rush through several different stages inspired by the comics and the movie, bashing heads in with baseball bats, destroying peons with your fists of fury, and calling on Scott’s obsessive teenage ex-girlfriend Knives Chau to aid in battle in particularly precarious situations.

Each character has a special move to make short work of enemies. If you look hard enough, you can even take a trip down Ramona’s “subspace highways” hidden behind sheds, doors, and other locations to reach later pieces of levels and skip parts that may be giving you trouble.

After mowing through what seems like an overly long stretch of crazed enemies, you’ll face an evil ex at the end of each stage. Defeat them, and move onto the next location from the game’s hub world.

This is classic gaming 101. If you’ve ever played River City Ransom or Streets of Rage, you should feel quite at home here.

Shops are littered throughout each differently themed world (flying piggy banks, zombies, mascots, you name it) stuffed with power-ups like snacks and CDs to up your experience points, health points, and guts required to perform special attacks.

You’ll need to grab all of the coins enemies leave behind in order to upgrade your character and see this game through to the end.

That’s where the problems begin. For starters, this game is brutally difficult. Playing alone on even the easiest setting exposes you to a hideous montage of humiliation and shame until you can beef yourself up sufficiently to withstand enough blows and preserve your allotted three lives. Once you deplete all three in one level, it’s back to the drawing board with all progress erased, except for experience.

It’s also not a desirable trek to make if you don’t plan on having friends over. The game’s devoid of online cooperative play, so unless you have friends and extra controllers on hand, your mettle as a gamer will be put to the test.

Group that with the fact that you must constantly work to be on the same plane and position as your enemies to land hits, enemies have no qualms about kicking you when you’re down or simply streaming out and making a dog pile on your helpless body and draining health.

I can’t equate the game’s awkward RPG character progression and vicious difficulty for solo players with “real” challenge. It just felt cheap. I felt cheap for enlisting fellow Scott Pilgrim fans to help me out without having completed the game alone first. But as someone who wants to make progress in a game without being cheated out of it, I simply lost my patience.

Perhaps this can also be attributed to the game’s deliberate old-school feel, when gaming was devoid of checkpoints or empathy, but modern times call for modern mechanics. To me, this felt like sloppy design.

It’s a shame such problems are present in an otherwise highly enjoyable offering. Aside from what can only be described as a retro gamer’s dream team of artist Paul Robertson (of “Mechafetus” fame) and chiptune greats Anamanaguchi providing visual treats and aural wonderment, the game serves up a hefty amount of style and flair. It also conjures up a few knowing giggles from players with instances of “Hey, I remember that!” rustled up between the game’s Super Mario-styled stage-select screen, the coins felled enemies leave behind, or the new moves gained with experience points earned in battle.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game is warm and familiar to anyone who can appreciate the gamer culture. Perhaps that’s why despite all the issues, like Ramona to Gideon, I kept going back.

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